By Bill Crawford
Victorymade Goods is like the song “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” by Richard Thompson – bold, ballsy and forever cool. Like Thompson, Danial Orchard, the founder of Victorymade, is a dedicated craftsman with a passion for bikes. But unlike Thompson who is British, Orchard is Canadian.
“Full disclosure,” Danial confessed from his workshop in Okotoks, Alberta, just outside of Calgary. “I moved here from Central Ontario in 2013, but I’ve met great people and it feels like home to me.”
Danial’s style is well situated in the prairies of western Alberta. The spring and summer can be hot and dry, the winters brutal, but the prairie is always stunning, rolling down from peaks of the Canadian Rockies. The Calgary Stampede, Canada’s biggest rodeo commemorates the region’s western heritage, which has also been celebrated on the screen in films like The Unforgiven, Brokeback Mountain, and The Revenant and the hit television series Heartland.
Heartland is a good term to describe Danial Orchard’s work. His craft comes from the heart. Danial’s bold, innovative designs are based in tradition, blended with design details pulled from illustrative dark art and typography. “I come across online books, graphic designers and illustrators that I enjoy, music and in life in general. If you’re looking for inspiration, you can find it!”
Danial also finds inspiration in the tattoo realm. “I am a fairly tattooed individual myself, so this is something I have had a deep appreciation for, even before working with leather. I find that leather allows me to pay homage to something I enjoy with my own talent.”
Danial admires the work of Canadian tattoo artists including Damian Robertson, Aaron Corbin, Dean Sleiman and Tim Power. From their work, Danial has picked up a sense of classic design, modern style and adventure.
Danial’s path to Victorymade was indeed adventurous. He grew up skateboarding around London, Ontario, hitting many of the street features as well. He also enjoyed winter sports. “My best memory for snowboarding was doing a bit of a multi-resort tour starting in Whistler, BC, and hitting as many resorts as we could on the way back to Alberta,” Danial says. “It was an awesome time. My legs were exhausted by the end of the fifth resort.”
In addition to skateboards and snowboards, Danial developed a passion for motorcycles. Unlike Richard Thompson’s British made ’52 Vincent Black Lightning, Danial Orchard prefers Japanese bikes.
“I am currently riding a 2019 Yamaha Bolt Cruiser,” Danial says, “and I am currently working on a 1979 Honda CB 750 converting it into a cafe racer. I will likely start on a new project within the next year or so.”
Danial’s interest in leather work evolved from his work as a photographer. “Before getting into leather, I spent a lot of time shooting skateboarding, snowboarding, portraits and music events,” Danial says. “In late 2014, I was feeling a little restless with photography. I was looking for some other type of creative work for my spare time, when a friend showed me a hand-carved leather item he had purchased. He had recently gotten into the craft himself and he encouraged me to give it a try. This sparked my initial interest.”
Danial picked up a knife and started carving. “The first thing I was ever commissioned was to make a cardholder. It was crude, but the guy I made it for liked it and I took an interest in pocket goods. I have been on a mission of self-development, trying out new methods/techniques, materials and developing further as a craftsman.”
After moving from Ontario to Alberta, Danial decided to launch his own brand and work in his own shop full time. “Being quite frank,” Danial says, “it kind of happened naturally. This was more or less a hobby for me to start, but I am the kind of guy who likes to push himself. As I became more skilled, I upgraded my tools and machines as needed. I will be honest here as well and say there were a few very unsure moments where I was making a large purchase (that I knew in my gut would further my work), but had a lot of self-doubt weighing me down, wondering if I was making the right choice or if my money could have been spent in a better way. I laugh to myself now and wonder if it was confidence, or a just stubbornness. There have been plenty of reasons for me to pack it in over the years; but I guess I got to the point where I really wanted to see things through and I was way too invested both personally and financially.”
Danial’s bet on Victorymade has paid off. His work has caught on. “I am most known for smaller goods (wallets/cardholders, strap goods, custom pet gear and everyday carry items). I have built the occasional carved motorcycle seat, motorcycle saddlebags, aprons as well.”
At first glance, Victorymade Goods combines classic fine craftsmanship and functionality. On closer inspection, Danial’s vision emerges. Railroad spikes. Sharkbombs. Fire and Brimstone. It is this blend of traditional workmanship with a post (or pre) apocalyptic aesthetic that gives Victorymade Goods a unique position in the market. Danial describes his style as non-traditional illustrative. “I am a large fan of black, natural or tan colors, like you would see in veg-tanned leather, and red as well. I like to aim for a level of simplicity in my color choices but if a customer wants something in a wild color, I will always happily oblige!”
Perhaps his work is best known for his use of airbrush and texture stamping, in addition to his designs.
“I would say that I like to use the airbrush to add extra levels of depth and detail, especially with splatter techniques and transitioning from one color to another. I find the splatter technique almost ends up being like a type of shading, and it is something I can honestly say I don’t see a lot of in leather.
“In terms of the texture stamping, I really like to use this for a background. It gives a bit more dimension and allows my main artwork and carving to stand out and draw the viewer’s eye.”
Danial’s workspace takes advantage of his location in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. “I like to keep my shop as bright as possible, lots of windows to let in all kinds of natural light during the day and plenty of lights above to create the daylight when it’s dark out.” A natural night owl, Danial prefers to work in the afternoon and into the night with a variety of music playing in the background –everything from heavy metal to folk. “It can be a bit of a time warp at night because I keep my studio so bright, but it’s hard to create good work when you can’t see what you’re doing!”
Energy makes Danial’s work irresistible. That energy comes from Danial himself. Danial’s custom work moves into a realm of bold designs and tattoo flash, styles which translate nicely into different carving stages. He is comfortable working with clients to bring their concepts to leather with his own design touches to fit the client’s design and taste.
“Last year I was tasked with creating 24 super unique chairs with a custom fabricated frame. I had to design a sling-style leather system that worked with the frame that had already been made. There was a solid week and a half of revisions to come up with a design that would work and function properly. In the end, it took a lot more work than what I had budgeted for time and it resulted in an all-nighter. I think I was up for a solid 30 hours straight, getting the final build and assembly done to have them ready for placement in the restaurant the next day. In hindsight, I was a little out of my realm for the size of the job, seeing as how I am a one-man show,” Danial grins. “But I also have a hard time backing down from a challenge that resonates with me.”
Danial doesn’t like to back down from a professional challenge, which means that he doesn’t have much time to kick back. “My favorite ways to relax are everything from riding my motorcycle, riding my gravel bicycle, reading, drawing, working out, doing odd jobs around the house and spending time with my girlfriend. I don’t do very well sitting around and doing nothing in case you couldn’t tell,” he says with a laugh.
With his talent, energy, skill and discipline, the only thing Danial lacks is time. “Balancing orders with learning new techniques, progressing my art and operating a leather goods supply business during the week, doesn’t always allow for a ton of spare time on my part, so I feel like I am pretty full throttle most weeks. I am hoping to change my schedule around a bit in the coming years to allow for some more time for more epic bike rides. My favorite is the ride along Highway 40.”
Danial is flat out most days, but that hasn’t stopped him from operating the leather supply business, Longview Leather.
“We specialize in supplying the Canadian market with quality tools, materials, equipment and information. I have found that what I have learned over the years in my own leather work, I can use to help others who are looking to take their leather work to the next level. Because I am often teaching others what I have learned, it keeps a lot of these processes fresh in my mind.”
Danial knows what it takes to build a business, and a skill, from scratch. “My greatest advice is to simply take your time developing yourself and thinking about what you want. Everyone has a different ‘why’ and I think it’s important to critically examine your ‘why’ and embrace it. I believe that will allow you to create some truly unique work in the long run. Trust in the process. You may not always have an answer, but even failure can be a great teacher if you are open to learning.”
Danial also warns people not to ramp up their work too quickly into a full-on business. After all, business is business and for many individuals the administrative work required to make a buck can quickly become overwhelming and unrewarding. Not for Danial. He not only fills orders for leather goods, but he has also branched out into other products, shirts, caps – even Victorymade coffee.
Aha! Victorymade coffee! Maybe that’s where Danial gets his energy.
“I absolutely do drink my own coffee. I have a couple cups a day, and I find sometimes firing up a hot cup of coffee adds a bit of extra motivation to my day!” Serious price increases and supply issues have challenged Victorymade coffee, but Danial has enjoyed the process of creating and running the business, even down to selecting the beans.
And what about the future? “I have been very lucky to have created everything I have wanted to create to this point, and I am very thankful to the clients who have let me have my creative freedom to allow this to be a possibility. I intend to keep innovating within my style of leatherworking and in the coming years would love to put my work on display in some showcases if the time permits.”
The foothills of the Canadian Rockies have proven to be the perfect place for Danial to find the space and inspiration he needs to continue the tough work of running a one-man, 750-square-foot workshop in the back of home. “It has definitely been a dream of mine since getting started in leather, and I am very proud to say I have since realized that dream.”
Danial understands what it takes to realize a dream. Victorymade, the name of the brand he founded in 2015, was inspired in part by a quote from Lord of the Rings. “There can be no victory without sacrifice.”
“When I was getting going in this,” Danial says, “I was doing a lot of work on my days off and evenings, really ‘sacrificing’ my time; but I had an energy for it, because I was working towards what I would consider being my ‘Victory’ and I was making. So, it seemed natural that I should call my brand Victorymade Goods. I also chose ‘goods’ vs. ‘leather’ because I had no idea how I would diversify my offering as I progressed.”
Victorymade has progressed far beyond Danial’s original vision, but he has never forgotten the key to success in any endeavor, whether it’s leather work, skateboard photography or customizing motorcycles. In fact, the words are tattooed in bold letters on Danial’s fingers: Hard Work Pays Off.
“It’s a friendly reminder while I am working with my hands and glance at them,” Danial says. “A little visual motivation if you will.”
Hard work does pay off, both for Danial and for fans of Victorymade. Grabbing onto a custom wallet or strap on an English bridle leather belt crafted by Danial’s tattooed fingers, you’ll get the jolt of energy you need to hit the open road – even if it’s only the open road to your daughter’s soccer game.
Which brings me back to Richard Thompson and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” Thompson sings:
Now Nortons and Indians and Greavses won’t do.
Oh, they don’t have a Soul like a Vincent ’52.
Victorymade Goods sings their own song. And, man, do they have soul.